The Sun Does Not Take A Break In The Winter

We are exposed to the warmth of the sun year round. This massive fiery orb provides us with the essentials for life and energy and has been a muse for cultures to honor since man began. Without it, we would ultimately not survive. But with the gifts it bestows comes the spoils to the greedy who lounge in it a little too long: dry, tender, reddened, burned, and blistered flesh, slowly destroyed cell by cell, and prematurely wrinkling.

We’re reminded constantly in the summer months to slather on copious amounts of sunscreen in hopes of keeping ourselves from getting a painful sear. However, we take this notion of protecting ourselves from the same sun for granted during cloudy, rainy, or wintery days. The sun does not take a break. The winter your skin is especially sensitive because of the low humidity, leaving it dry and irritated. Part of your winter regimen should include protecting from UV rays.

UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that radiates from the sun year round. Excessive exposure to UV rays damages the skin on a cellular level, potentially mutating the DNA over time. DNA is the source of vital genetic information coded into each living cell. UV radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer, effecting millions of people a year. Fair-skinned people are more at risk because of the decreased or inconsistent presence of melanin. However, that does not mean those with darker pigment are completely immune. Melanin is present in skin, hair, and eyes. It determines color and is produced by melanocytes found in the basal layer of the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin).

Melanin is considered a photochemical. When provoked by UVB rays, it reacts with a photo-protectant response, absorbing the ultraviolet light as heat. This process is meant to inhibit the damage to DNA. With prolonged exposure, the photochemical reaction creates freckling, tanning, and burning. The more often you burn, the higher the risk of damaging your DNA. When the integrity of DNA is compromised, a cancer-related mutation can result.

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Its degree of perniciousness and cause can depend on multiple factors. Cancer isn’t always isolated to one part of the body and can metastasize (spread). Skin is the largest organ of the integumentary system.

UVB are the rays that burn you. UVA rays, which account for 95 percent of the radiation, are those that prematurely age you. They penetrate deeper than UVB rays. These rays can penetrate water, glass, clouds, and clothing. Reflective surfaces can impose UV rays into shaded areas.

SPF stands for Sun Protections Factor. It’s usually seen as an abbreviation followed by a number seen on many beauty and hygiene products and some clothing items. These numbers refer to the product’s ability to screen, reflect, or absorb the sun’s UV rays; the higher the number, the higher the coverage.

Unfortunately, there a great deal of confusion surrounding the sun protection factor when trying to understand what the number truly represents. Sunblock makers have come under fire in recent years for obfuscated claims surrounding effectiveness, all day protection, and whether or not there is such a thing as waterproof or sweat proof coverage. The FDA has proposed the necessity of mandatory requirements. Sunscreen manufacturers will have to adhere to new regulations, barring them from branding labels with statements exaggerating product performance. Please see Coppertone Settlement: Up To $10 Million For Exaggerating Sunscreen Claims by Nathan Francis.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation:

“Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB…SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent. They may seem like negligible differences, but if you are light-sensitive, or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages will make a difference. And as you can see, no sunscreen can block all UV rays. But there are problems with the SPF model: First, no sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be expected to stay effective longer than two hours without reapplication. Second, ‘reddening’ of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting.”

When purchasing a lotion or spray, be mindful there are two kinds of SPF, sunscreen with physical UV filters and chemical UV filters. Physical sunscreen works by deflecting the sun’s rays while chemical ones absorb or scatter. Examples of physical sunscreen ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are better tolerated by those with sensitive skin, especially the zinc oxide. Examples of chemical sunscreen ingredients include octylcrylene, avobenone, and oxybenzone.

Avobenzone is a chemical found in many popular sunscreens. It is notorious for staining clothing because, when it comes into contact with clothing and is washed, it can react with the iron found in the water. This mineral interaction can result in staining or discoloring of clothing. One way of limiting this damage is to allow the product to completely dry and absorb into the skin before applying garments.

Do not trust SPF in makeup alone to be enough. Often times these products have sat on a shelf for a prolonged period and the stability of the SPF can degrade over time. SPF can expire, especially those with chemical UV filtering ingredients. Physical UV filtering sunscreens have a slightly longer shelf-life. Be aware that the use of some beauty products that can cause you to be more photosensitive, increasing your risk of photoaging and burns, such as retinoids, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), and hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is found in some spot fading products that work by chemically reducing the production of melanin, thus limiting your skin’s ability to protect itself.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SPF lotions or sprays should be liberally applied to all exposed areas and reapplied frequently especially after physical activity, sweating, toweling, and water saturation. Most people forget to spread over the ears and neck. That is skin too. Be sure to also protect lips. The skin of the lips is slightly thinner than that of the surrounding dermis. They are often pink as the capillaries are more visible to the surface, transitioning at the vermillion border or lip line. This area is particularly sensitive to the sun’s UV rays.

These are commonly overlooked areas that are particularly sensitive and almost always exposed.

Parts Forgotten To SPF

Layering different SPF rated products does not increase your protection factor. The highest number applied is the highest amount of coverage you’re getting and technically only a fraction of that if you fail to apply it amply enough.

Consider a faux tan in lieu of tanning beds. They are less fake-and-bake orange than they used to be. Make sure infants and children are protected. Pets can also get sunburned if left outside in direct sunlight for too long. Include sunglasses, visors, long sleeves, and SPF-rated clothing. Avoid the sun during the peak hours between 10 am and 4 pm. Have regular annual screenings with a dermatologist, noting particular moles, freckles, or splotches of skin that have changed in color, shape, or texture.

The Inquisitr wishes everyone a happy and healthy new year!